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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a great sounding verse:

"in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

It's great as long as your life is going smooth. But what about when things go wrong...what about when life gets junky? Not so thankful then...huh.

I'll be honest...my life hasn't been very tragedy filled. I've had it pretty easy. I've gone to church my whole life. My testimony doesn't include drinking, drugs, or gang violence. I've never lived on the street. I've never experienced war. I've always had food to eat...a roof over my head...people to love me. Sure, I've had tough times (hey, I'm a Detroit Lions fan), but nothing extremely rough. Bottom line, it's been easy to be thankful.

I remember when my uncle Tom died. It was the first time I can remember being mad at God. Uncle Tom was a good man. He volunteer coached kids to keep them off the street. He was a retired firefighter who saved countless people's lives. He loved people. It wasn't fair. He wasn't supposed to have a heart attack, especially during the Christmas season.

I was NOT thankful. I went to the funeral. I saw family. I ate food. I shared stories and even laughed a bit. But I wasn't thankful. I was mad.

God's Word doesn't give us an option on thankfulness. We are to give thanks in all circumstances. The deal is that we are to be content with our life and focus on the Glory, Majesty, and Greatness of God! No matter what happens here on earth, He loves us. He gave us life. He made eternal life a possibility. We have a future with Him in glory. Nothing can take any of those things away.

I wasn't thankful because I was being selfish. I was thinking about me. I was going to miss uncle Tom (and still do). I wanted him around. I wanted to see him at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wanted to hear his laugh. I wanted to go hiking with him. Me, me, me. Since uncle Tom's death, I've witnessed God's Spirit work in several of my family members that had been closed to the Gospel their entire lives. I'm thankful NOW but I wish I hadn't missed the opportunities I had then.

When we get selfish during tragedies we lose sight of the opportunities God is giving us to share His love and His story with others. I'm not saying "don't be sad." I'm saying don't miss opportunities you may never have again. Hurricanes, family and friends deaths, poverty, pain, sickness...the "unthankful" list could go on for a long time...all of these things are opportunities for the best in God's people to shine. I think it's important and crucial to mourn, but are you still going to love those around you? Are you willing to still serve those around you? Will you reflect Christ or not? Giving thanks in all circumstances requires that you trust in God...trust that He is still in charge and knows what He is doing. It might not make sense or be fair to us, but God calls us to trust and serve Him. Hebrews 11:6, "without faith, it is impossible to please God."

What opportunities is God giving you to tell others the Good News? Let your "thanksgiving in all circumstances" reflect Christ to everyone around you. Stay strong.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

hospitality

In Acts 28, Paul washes up on the shore of the small island of Malta after the ship he was a prisoner on was wrecked in a fierce storm. While there are a lot of cool things that happen while on the island, I love how Paul is treated.

vs. 2, "The islanders showed us unusual kindness..."

vs. 7, "He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably."

vs. 10, "They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed."

Again, the whole story is powerful and Paul does some amazing things for these folks...however, I can't get past how they treated Paul, an outsider who washed up on the shore of their island. They just loved and took care of him, no questions asked. Their kindness, compassion, and hospitality is overwhelming.

I experienced a taste of this kind of love when my family moved to south Florida a couple weeks ago. My friend Justin and I drove two Uhaul trucks down from Jacksonville, and got to our home around 3:30 PM. He and I started unloading the trucks. About 4:00 PM, people from our church started showing up...and showing up...and showing up. We had everything inside in under two hours with the help of well over 20 people showing up to just help unload boxes and furniture. I was overwhelmed with the help shown to myself and my family.

While that's cool in and of itself, here's the really great part. During the past two weeks as I've gotten a chance to introduce myself to and meet our neighbors, every single one of them have brought up how how many people showed up to help unload the trucks. When I've let them know it was people from our church, again, every one of them was impressed, one couple even saying, "That's how church should be...people helping people."

I couldn't agree more. The church Jesus started was about helping people. It wasn't founded on arguing, persecuting, judging, technology, nifty catch phrases, or other things that so many churches seem to be caught up in today. It was about being aware of folks around you and showing them the love that Christ taught and displayed.

Be aware of those around you. Who can you serve? Who can you love? Who can you show hospitality?

Serve someone today. Stay strong.

Tim